RICHMOND, Va. -- With hospitals across the nation ramping up for an expected surge in COVID-19 patients, cancer centers such as VCU Massey Cancer Center are operating at near capacity for breast cancer and other cancers.
“Yes, there are risks from the virus, but the risk from the cancer remain and always been and we have to keep going,” said Steven Grossman, Massey’s Deputy Director.
Dr. Grossman says treating cancer doesn’t stop, especially for patients undergoing radiation or chemo.
“Chemotherapy as you can imagine is not an elective. It’s not optional,” said Grossman.
Just about all cancer patients have some level of a weakened immune system, even more so for patients doing chemo or radiation.
“We consider cancer a high risk group for the virus and the complications it can ensue,” said Grossman.
With the coronavirus pandemic, patients are given masks when they enter the Massey clinic. The number of patients in the clinic and infusion areas are now more spread out.
Doctors are also telling patients to assess their own symptoms the day before they arrive to the clinic. Symptoms similar to COVID-19 such as a cough, headache, congestion and a fever.
The coronavirus has shifted close to half of all office visits to virtual visits instead whether it’s over the phone or via the internet. The virtual visits are for patients who don’t need a physical exam.
“To decrease the risk for patients coming out of their houses just traveling down to the medical center in the interest of social distancing,” said Grossman.
Doctor Grossman also says the virtual visits also decrease the pressure on the providers who may be needed in other areas. Dr. Grossman says during the pandemic, Massey doctors re-enforce the CDC guidelines to their patients such as washing their hands, social distancing, and staying home.